by Susan Lenz
Last night, Ballerina Regina Willoughby couldn’t hold all the flowers presented at the conclusion of her farewell performance of Columbia City Ballet’s Cleopatra. She carefully laid those in her arms atop the mound of roses company dancers had placed at her feet. She gracefully stepped around the pile for one last bow. Artistic Director William Starrett addressed the standing ovation with words of praise for her long career and sparkling personality, and Mayor Stephen Benjamin presented the Key to the City. Many in the audience wiped away tears as the curtain was lowered.
I hadn’t seen such an emotionally charged scene since Prima Ballerina Mariclare Miranda’s 2006 retirement performance of Giselle. Here in Columbia, the audience seems to know how to respond to the last show in a principal dancer’s life and to the talent they just witnessed. Regina Willoughby was certainly the star in the production. The title role was set on her in 2008 and reprised in 2010. I remember these evenings rather well.
Regina Willoughby was brilliant as Cleopatra in all three seasons, dancing as if she’d already found the Egyptian secrets of an ageless afterlife. Her blunt cropped coiffure by Brittany Mocase Luskin of Studio B at the Old Mill was again perfect. It is little wonder that Regina selected this production for her final appearance. Unfortunately, her Act I partner was not as convincing as past years when Robert Michalski (2008) and Peter Kozak (2010) danced the role of Julius Caesar. Also missing was the excitement and technical abilities seen when William Moore, Jr. danced the part of Ptolemy, Cleopatra’s scheming younger brother. Frankly, the male roles were lack luster until principal Bo Busby stepped onto the stage as Marc Antony. Then, the partnering seamlessly sizzled. Their pas de deux was the highlight of the evening and lived up to a performance worthy of the retirement hype.
Otherwise, much of the choreography was to be in unison or to feature corp de ballet dancers racing across the stage, one-after-the-other in a strong diagonal line. In these instances, it is too easy to see lack of synchronization. Much of the ballet appeared to need additional rehearsal time. The canned music was also problematic. It seemed to need a bit of professional mixing for smoother transitions from melody to melody.
Problems aside, the evening was a lovely way to celebrate a ballerina’s retirement. Columbia City Ballet and local audiences will undoubtedly miss Regina Willoughby but will happily welcome principal Claire Richards and newly appointed principal Bonnie Boiter-Jolley into leading ladies. As Cleopatra’s handmaidens, they complimented one another perfectly. I look forward to seeing them during the 2018-19 season’s productions of Dracula: Ballet with a Bite; The Nutcracker; Sleeping Beauty; and the world premier of Beatles: The Ballet.
My recent interview with Regina Willoughby included well wishes and fond memories from dancers who have moved away or retired. Since then, I’ve received a few more quotes.
Pat Miller Baker wrote: Only once in a blue moon does a ballerina like Regina come along. She made her mark in every role she danced and the memories of her portrayals along with her physicality and artistry shall remain in all of our minds and hearts forever. I have loved being her teacher, coach and friend. (Pat Miller elegantly appeared in last night’s production as Calpurnia, Wife of Caesar, a character role demanding exquisite dramatic acting.)
Journy Wilkes-Davis wrote: Some of the first big roles in my career I danced with Regina and it was her confident experience that allowed me to grow as a partner. She is a daredevil in the studio and onstage and the intensity she brings to every role pushed me to take risks as a partner where I had previously would have played it safer. I have great memories of dancing Arthur opposite her Lucy in Dracula or Romeo to her Juliet where it was inspiring to match the commitment she brought to her character and build a believable story for the audience. She taught by example how to throw caution to the wind and live in the moment onstage, a gift I will carry with me the rest of my career.
William Moore, Jr. wrote: I will start off by saying that it was a pleasure sharing the stage with Regina for several years! Notably our performance of Cleopatra was an unforgettable process and I am honored that I had that awesome opportunity early in my career. Love Regina dearly and I wish her the best in her retirement!
Love, William Moore Jr, former dancer, current music producer
I’d been looking forward to Friday’s one-night-only performance of Don Quixote by Columbia Classical Ballet all season, especially after seeing portions of it during last month’s Studio Series preview. Why? Well, I’ve only seen the full ballet once.
It was a long time ago, 2005, but a very memorable experience. The Bolshoi, accompanied by its own orchestra, came to Wolf Trap theater outside Washington, DC. At the time, world renown Alexei Ratmansky was the artistic director. Many consider him the best choreographer working in the world today. He’s a MacArthur fellow and current artist-in-residence with American Ballet Theater in NYC. Ratmansky was trained at the Bolshoi, the company for which Don Quixote was originally choreographed back in 1869 by ballet's greatest classicist Marius Petipa. Most performances today are based on Alexander Gorsky’s derivative 1900 choreography, but that was for the Bolshoi too. So, Don Quixote by the Bolshoi, I can pretty much say that I once saw “the best of the best”.
Don Quixote is performed in either three or four acts with at least eight scenes of bravura, emotionally charged character dancing, flashy use of fans and capes, a hot Mediterranean aura, and a pumped-up score by Leon Minkus. The story comes from episodes found in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de a Mancha, a tale of unattainable humanity, chivalric romance, and the impossible dream of justice. In the ballet, The Man of LaMancha is really part of the background. The innkeepers’ flirtatious daughter Kitri and her love, Basilio, are are center stage. The ballet is full of humor and lots of variations for the casts’ female dancers plus one of the most frequently performance full pas de deux. That’s why I know the ballet so well.
Over the years, I’ve seen parts of this ballet literally hundreds of times. There are at least six female variations performed in international competitions and the wedding scene is generally on every gala program. Odds are, if you’ve been to Columbia Classical Ballet’s annual LifeChance gala, you’ve seen part of the production as well. Thus, when I say Friday night’s performance was wonderful, trust me! You should have been there! It was undoubtedly the best ballet performance in Columbia this season.
Radenko Pavlovich, Columbia Classical Ballet’s artistic director, should be rightfully proud of his talented company. They were so good that even the few flaws were wonderful. A fan was dropped but the dancer showed no sign of concern. She waited for the perfect moment to pick it up, as if the accident was part of the choreography. Dancing to canned music sometimes causes problems too. There are variations in which the movement begins before the music. With an orchestra, the conductor is to watch the dancer and know precisely when to bring down the baton. With canned music, timing is tricky, not always perfect. A missed cue happened, but I doubt most in the audience knew. The dancer in question was so well rehearsed that he was flawlessly back with the music within seconds.
The highlight of the evening was watching Nao Omoya as Kitri. Not only is she a technically brilliant dancer who makes every move look effortless but she’s a lovely actress. Her energy seemed to increase with the physical demands of the ballet. Her double fouettés in the final coda were world-class. Koyo Yanagishima partnered her beautifully and his boyish charm was evident throughout.
Now, I know there were lots of other cultural events going on last night, including another opportunity to see dance. But, it is a shame that every seat in the Koger Center wasn’t filled. This was a performance that deserved a full house and a standing ovation. I left the theater wondering about Don Quixote’s unattainable quest for chivalry and a better, more just world. In Columbia, dance companies have their own unattainable quest: finding an audience to fill the seats. I was happy to occupy one, and I hope my previews and review for Jasper Project might assist in awareness for local dance and filling seats in the future because occasionally, like last night, Columbia’s audience has a chance to see “the best of the best” right here in the Midlands.
Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green
For me, writing a review of a one-night-only performance is difficult, especially since my viewpoint is as an expert audience member. No matter what I say, there’s no chance for others to attend the show to agree with me or not. So, I’m approaching this review from another angle. I’m comparing last Friday, February 9th performance of Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green to earlier productions of the same show. I’m hoping that this article will explain why the public should see any ballet more than once. Ballets, even the classical ones, change over the years, from season to season, from cast to cast, through new costuming and staging and even through new choreography.
Columbia City Ballet’s Off the Wall has undergone plenty of changes since it’s 2005 premier. I attended that lavish February 4th opening at the Koger Center and largely agreed with the New York Times review which stated, “The evening seems short on specifics of Gullah life, let alone the evocation of actual characters” and went on to note a lack of coherence in the choreography and a disconnect between the two acts. That was thirteen years ago.
Since that time, Artistic Director William Starrett has been polishing the show. In fact, this signature production is occasionally presented in a scale-down version as it was during the summer of 2014 for the 39th annual national assembly of The Links Foundation, an international nonprofit. That forty-two minute performance outside Washington, DC for an audience of 4,000 earned the company $50,000. The first act vignette, “Love of the Harvest” to Marlena Smalls’ “Carry Me Home,” is frequently performed alone. I saw Amanda Summey and prima ballerina Regina Willoughby dance this remarkably touching piece last month in remembrance of Coralee Harris, a long-time arts supporter and former chairman of the board for the ballet company. Basically, Off the Wall has been an active part of Columbia City Ballet’s repertoire since it debuted and is constantly being refined.
The second time I saw the production was in 2011. Changes, especially in the second act, improved the experience. Individual personalities better emerged in the Silver Slipper Dance Hall and an interior church scene was added as a final number. Jonathan Green’s paintings, dance, and choral music brought the audience to a standing ovation then and again last Friday night.
I generally complain about Columbia’s audience rising to their feet when the curtain falls as if a requirement, but it was impossible to stay seated in the crescendo of energy brought about by dancers popping up and down in their pews to high-spirited vocals by Elliott Hannah and singers from the Claflin University Gospel Choir, the University of South Carolina, ATOF, and Benedict College. The show ends very, very well, especially in a space as open as the Township Auditorium. Audience and performers melded into a singular celebration. It was terrific.
Other highlights include billowing fabric from which Regina Willoughby magically appears, Maurice Johnson striking a pose so perfectly that it suggests he modeled for Jonathan Green’s Fishing Break, and Amanda Summey’s feisty character in “He Treats Your Daughter Mean”. It was also a pleasure to see guest principal dancer Paunika Jones return to Columbia.
Most important to the success of this ballet is the way large-scale scrims of Jonathan Green’s painting really do come to life. Even from the 2005 debut, this difficult task worked. Translucent backdrops give way to specific places and characters. Yet, the spacious Township Auditorium seems to dwarf these backdrops when compared to their impact at the Koger Center. Fortunately, a multi-media projection off-set this spatial concern and actually showed even more of Jonathan Green’s low country images. Overall, the change in venue made the performance new and fresh.
The next time I see Off the Wall and Onto the Stage, there will be other changes. How do I know this? Well, in 2005 I had the pleasure of watching former prima ballerina Mariclare Miranda. The New York Times liked her too, describing her as “an elegant classical dancer (who) proves that some exalted titles are not merely honorific.” Later this season Regina Willoughby will retire, too. Therefore, the future will bring another dancer to sizzle in Little Esther Phillips 1962 R&B hit “Please Release Me”. I will look forward to that show.
"Puck luck" is a hockey term that refers to those factors which influence the outcome of a game that do not involve the strategy and skill of the players.
When Columbia City Ballet and the full South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Morihiko Nakahara perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Koger Center this coming Saturday night, January 27th, Colin Jacob will be the envy of many hopeful dancers. He’ll be wearing green and dancing his first principal role. Plucked from the corp de ballet by Artistic Director William Starrett, Colin will use his acting background from high school musical theater and gymnastics to bring Shakespeare’s “merry wanderer of the night," Puck, a mischievous but shrewdly knavish sprite to life.
The role is demanding. It requires lofty leaps, whirling turns, and even a bit of tree climbing. The speed of the scherzo leaves the dancer breathless but insists on an immediate return to stage as if the activity was all in the course of a normal day. A clever but impish character must be maintained despite the grueling pace. This is Jacob Colin’s challenge. He has videotapes from previous Columbia City Ballet seasons, including one featuring Jose Serrano in the role. I remember that show well. In fact, I know the ballet rather well. William Starrett’s 1987 choreography is inspired by Sir Frederick Ashton’s from 1964. I’ve seen that version too. I know that Puck is the audience favorite. I was happy to hear that Colin Jacob is working hard to do as well or even better than those who have already performed the fun but rigorous role here. This is his “big break”. Some might even call it “Puck Luck”.
Perhaps “Puck Luck” was involved. No one could have predicted the strategy that would find the originally cast dancer no longer with the company, that Colin would unexpectedly be told to learn the part after rehearsals had begun. Perhaps “Puck Luck” was involved because Colin’s skill doesn’t come with more than a decade of dance training, something generally expected for a principal part. Yet, my interview told another story.
At seventeen, Colin was asked to help a local, amateur show in his hometown of Brecksville, Ohio. They needed a male dancer. Without prior dance experience, Colin stepped up to the plate, continued lessons, and earned a scholarship to Pittsburgh’s Point Park University, one of the country’s top programs. He earned his BA in only three years and accepted a trainee position with Ballet West in Salt Lake City. This was after winning scholarships in 2013 and 2014 from Youth American Grand Prix, an international amateur dance competition. No dancer climbs the ladder of success so quickly without natural ability, a great work ethic, and tremendous daily effort.
My interview with Colin revealed him to be a most articulate young artist who is looking forward to performing to live music. He said that as a dancer, live music makes the show “feels like the first time because it isn’t exactly like a tape recording. Music is a cultural plus.”
(Please note, child prodigy, Felix Mendelssohn wrote the overture as a seventeen year old in 1826 and added his incidental music, Opus 61, sixteen years later for the production of Shakespeare’s play. The score includes the now, traditional “Wedding March”, generally heard as brides walk down aisles. This melody was adopted by Princess Victoria in 1858 for her wedding to Prince William of Prussia.)
Of course Columbia City Ballet rehearses to a tape recording. There’s no other way to do it! For Colin, each rehearsal is getting easier and easier, but he is quick to add that each one reveals another fine point for him to work on.
I am quite sure that Colin Jacobs will be bringing a memorable performance to the stage. I wish I could see it, but alas I’ll be teaching a fiber arts workshop in Alabama. More than for myself, I hope Colin’s parents are able to make the arrangements. Like Colin, they weren’t expecting “Puck Luck”, a big break for a very likable and talented dancer. Thankfully, many will be in the audience especially to see Colin. He regularly teaches dance at Southern Strut, Columbia City Jazz, Richland Northeast High School and at Columbia Music Festival Association where he also media coordinator.
Accepting the corps de ballet position with Columbia City Ballet, along with his other dance related opportunities, has provided Colin a level of financial stability. He bought a car and is paying off student loans. More importantly, our local dance company has provided amazing performance opportunities and the potential for upward mobility. Whether “Puck Luck” was involved or not, Saturday’s performance is more than a “big break” for a single dancer. It is a big break for people in Columbia is watch the start of a winning young talent. It is a fabulous opportunity to see our full company perform to live music. I’ve focused this preview on just one dancer but there are many. Go see for yourself! It will be worth it!
Tickets for the 3:00 PM matinee and the 7:30 PM evening performances on Saturday, January 27th are available at:
Less than thirty-six hours before the Koger Center curtain went up, Columbia Classical Ballet’s Artistic Director Radenko Pavlovich received a text message that changed the entire ballet gala. Pavlovich’s protege and Washington Ballet principal dancer, Brooklyn Mack would not be able to make the trip. The program was already printed listing three numbers in which he would appear. This news came on the heels of another unfortunate cancellation. An injury prevented two Pennsylvania Ballet dancers from bringing the 3rd Act Pas de Deux from Don Quixote, always a big crowd pleasing piece, to the stage.
What to do? The show must go on!
The show did go on and beautifully so. As promised, the evening was a delightful mix of contemporary and classical featuring guest principal and soloist dancers from Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance of Chicago, and Pennsylvania Ballet. The audience was mesmerized though slightly confused by the shifted program. Too many were consulting the line-up using illumination from their cell phones. (This is a BIG no-no and the topic of a recent Dance Magazine article. http://www.dancemagazine.com/phones-during-performances-2522420426.html) Checking the program was totally unnecessary. Each piece was clearly announced over the public address system.
The evening started after a few, brief introductions including Kassy Alia, founder of Heroes in Blue. (http://heroesinblue.net.) Her local charity received some of the proceeds from the evening. She asked all the police officers in attendance to stand for a round of applause. For most, this was their first experience seeing dance. I knew one of the Forest Acres police officers. My husband and I ran into him and his well dressed wife at nearby Hunter-Gatherer before the show. He asked me what to expect. He imagined an evening of tiaras and short, pancake tutus. But, that’s only how the program started.
Boston Ballet’s Patrick Leonard Yocum and Ji Young Chae dazzled in the Sleeping Beauty Wedding Pas de Deux. But before the first half ended with an ethereal rendition from Les Sylphide, the audience was treated to extraordinary diversity with Manuel Vignoulle and Rena Butler’s Black and White, Columbia Classical Ballet dancer Koyo Yanagishima’s athleticism in a variation from Diana and Actaeon, and Yanagishima’s choreography for two of his fellow company members. Dancers appeared in itty-bitty costumes. Black and White should really have started with even less. (Long story short, I wish I could have seen the original, changing costumes. But this is the South, after all, not a place quite ready to witness an exploration in a mixed race couple’s relationship and gender equality through parted toplessness even if they progressively added clothing.) Finally, Rosalie Cirio was truly breathtaking in her perfect, long white romantic tutu and expertly partnered by Paul Craig.
When the curtain rose to the cast of Columbia Classical Ballet’s dancers for Rhapsodic Variations, the audience was well aware that Brooklyn Mack, listed to begin the second half, was not in attendance. It really didn’t matter. Rick McCullough’s choreography perfectly suited our local company, the dancers expressed more emotion than I’ve seen in earlier productions, and I’d personally enjoy seeing the piece again. I certainly could repeatedly watch 50/50, a steamy tango-in-pointe-shoes by Boston’s sultry Ashley Ellis and her handsome partner Matthew Slattery or Dueto danced by Arian Molina Soca and Dayesi Torriente from Pennsylvania Ballet.
What surprised me was seeing the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker as part of a gala so close after the holiday season. As soon as Tamako Miyazaki took the stage, I understood. She is the embodiment of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the type of dancer who makes the little-girl-heart in me remember why I love dance. Her smile transformed the entire Koger Center into an odyssey of enchantment. It didn’t hurt that her Washington Ballet partner, Rolando Sarabia looks like a matinee idol and lands his Tour en l'air with total bravado. (Tour en l'air is a movement in which a dancer jumps straight upward and completes at least one full revolution in the air before landing.)
I was delighted to learn that Tamako Miyazaki was once a Columbia Classical Ballet company member. Opportunities here in Columbia assisted with the progression of her career. Opportunities were abound last night due to an unfortunate text message. Koyo Yanagishima’s Diana and Actaeon variation was a program addition. He danced Flames of Paris during the second half. More time on stage was allotted to our local talent. As Radenko Pavlovich put it, “I am raising the bar for quality in Columbia”. His dancers are stepping up to meet the challenge and definitely held their own on a stage with world-class talent from across the country.
Anyone in Columbia who has even a slight interest in the local dance scene knows that twice a year there's exceptionally good evenings to witness world-class ballet performers. One of those nights is coming up on April 15th when USC presents the 13th Annual Ballet Stars of New York. The other night is just around the corner:
Columbia Classical Ballet presents
LifeChance 2018 this coming Saturday, January 20th.
Don't miss it!
Principal dancers from Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Washington Ballet, and Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance are coming to the Koger Center. One night only! Every year LifeChance puts on this benefit gala. Proceeds will benefit Heroes In Blue (http://heroesinblue.net/), a local charity that was founded in honor of Forest Acres Police Department Officer Gregory Alia who was killed in the line of duty on September 30, 2015.
Now, I'm sure there will be other news articles featuring the internationally known artists and the very high caliber dancing that this gala brings to the stage, but I promised to write articles from a different point of view. I want to bring more awareness of the local dance community from the audience's perspective. After all, Columbia Classical Ballet's roster of talented performers will also be dancing during LifeChance 2018. These are the dancers who regularly grace our stage. It must be an amazing opportunity for them to perform alongside some of their own idols. It must be exciting for the staff, choreographers, and those behind the scenes too. In this vein, I sought out the opportunity to get a few quotes!
Juliet Brown is really excited about Saturday night. She’s in her second season with Columbia Classical Ballet and fondly remembers last year’s LifeChance as her favorite time on stage. She said, “There are even more guest dancers this year. It’ll be a longer show.” Clement Guillaume echoed my opening statements, “LifeChance is a one time thing. It’s a gala. There aren’t two chances to look good. As a company, we are really close to one another and really looking forward to dancing Rick McCullough’s contemporary piece, Rhapsody.”
Yet, I had the most fun interviewing Koyo Yanagishima. Like his fellow company members, he’s in Rhapsody but he’s also dancing Flames of Paris. In past LifeChance galas, Artistic Director Radenko Pavlovich has showcased several of his exceptionally talented dancers in order for them to share the stage on an equal footing with the world renown guest dancers. Koyo was almost blushing to admit being selected for this rare opportunity. He was assuredly embarrassed by my next few questions.
I asked Koyo if the LifeChance 2018 poster was the first time a solo image of him was used to promote a performance. It was. I asked if he called his mother back in Japan. He did. He shared it on social media too.
Yet, Koyo was quickly serious when discussing Shadows, a male duet he choreographed. Radenko Pavlovich is proud to include Koyo’s choreograpny in Saturday’s line up. It will be seen alongside Topless, a contemporary piece from Hubbard Street Dance. Pavlovich is as eager to see the audience’s reaction to his young dancer’s choreography as he is to see the reaction to the Chicago-based company’s work even though he had to nix the original costuming (or lack thereof).
Time talking with Radenko Pavlovich was enlightening. He mentioned many past events and the amazing guest dancers who have come to Columbia. He added, “When my company dancers come here for a season, they are cheering for one another to excel beyond their own earlier expectations. I believe, without a doubt, that LifeChance is the very best evening of dance in Columbia. It raises the bar for quality, locally and for my company. It makes my dancers push themselves, collectively and individually.”
Hopefully, the excitement at Columbia Classical Ballet for the upcoming star-studded evening will add to the number of people in attendance. I know I'm excited and promise a review of the evening shortly after the curtain comes down!
For tickets to Saturday’s LifeChance 2018 gala:
Susan Lenz is a full time, professional studio artist in Columbia, South Carolina. Her studio is located at Mouse House, Inc. at 2123 Park Street where she has both a studio for 3D sculptural and installation work and a separate fiber art studio. Susan's work has been juried into numerous national and international exhibits, featured in solo shows all over the United States, and shown on television and in print. She has been awarded six full scholarship art residencies and several "Best of Show" ribbons.
She blogs at
Both have snow, tiaras, and take a young Clara on a fairytale journey into the Land of Sweets with dancing variations and a final pas de deux. So, what are the differences? Which company's production should an informed audience member select?
My husband and I own a little frame shop. My sales counter is in front of a non-working fireplace with a mantel holding family pictures, including some of my dancing son. For years these images seemed to remind clients that ballet is part of my life. Every holiday season, clients excitedly tell me, "I'm going to The Nutcracker!" Of course I'm happy for them and ask, "Which production?" The answer is always the same. "The one at the Koger Center."
Further conversation reveals that most people in Columbia are aware that The Nutcracker comes to the Township Auditorium every Thanksgiving weekend. Some even know that this is the civic company. (I wrote a review of last month's show at http://jasperproject.org/what-jasper-said/88xw7fa24pxcfdb5x77mxf5zyrkgxd). Most seem to know that The Nutcracker also comes to the Koger Center for three weekends in December, but they are totally unaware that two different, local professional ballet companies are putting on these shows. They have no idea to which production they've booked tickets. They have no idea that there is a difference. But there is a difference.
The first weekend features Columbia Classical Ballet (Radenko Pavolich, artistic director). The later two weekends feature Columbia City Ballet (William Starrett, artistic director). Yes, the company names are as similar as The Nutcracker's basic storyline. Both companies use canned Tchaikovsky music, cast students from their independent ballet schools, and include adults from the community in character roles, mainly in the first act's party scene. Both companies sell tickets through the Koger Center's on-line box office. Both have snow, tiaras, and take a young Clara on a fairytale journey into the Land of Sweets with dancing variations and a final pas de deux. So, what are the differences? Which company's production should an informed audience member select?
Let me cut to the chase. If one wants to see a technically superior Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, book Radenko's production. I saw Nao Omoya and Koyo Yanagishima on Saturday night. At least I think I did. The program listed double-cast roles but didn't indicate which dancers were performing in which show. I still have no idea who I saw as Clara. Despite being in several Act II variations in both that afternoon's matinee and the evening performance, these two dancers surprisingly had plenty of energy and brought excellent technique to the stage. The dancers for Columbia City Ballet had two performances the following Saturday. I saw both. Claire Richards was lovely but her afternoon partner was weak. Bo Busby and Regina Willoughby looked understandably tired that evening.
Yet, who goes to The Nutcracker for just the last pas de deux? In almost every other way, Columbia City Ballet's production was more pleasing.
That last sentence was hard for me to write.
I'm predisposed against the liberties William Starrrett takes with his production. I'm more inclined to like the traditional dancing dolls during Act I's party scene. Radenko Pavlovich’s Harlequin and Columbine were first rate but couldn't save the scene. That party unfolded as if a series of recital pieces. At one point, all the girls covered the stage rocking baby dolls, and there weren't even enough to go around. Stranger yet, the Nutcracker doll wasn't even a traditional solid. Its legs were moveable, possibly even like a stuffed animal.
William Starrett’s nutcracker doll looks like a nutcracker, but it’s the only doll on stage. Instead of the classic mechanized dancing doll variations, Starrett features a flirtatious Scarlett straight from Gone With the Wind mythology and a courtship dance between Clara’s older sister and a lead cadet. It works though. It works because the Columbia City Ballet dancers are good actors. As the scene continues, the audience has no problem following the plot. The nutcracker doll is broken, repaired, and placed by the Christmas tree. Effortlessly, the audience follows the action. Clara is lurked back to the darkened living room and a dream sequence begins. Mice and rats battle and the nutcracker is magically transformed into a living doll and finally a prince. One doesn’t have to consult the program. The plot is told through the choreography, the dancers, and good lighting. Virginia Welsh as young Clara, though not technically perfect, was utterly charming and carried the audience into the Land of Snow and beyond.
Unfortunately, Columbia Classical Ballet’s dancers generally don’t express much emotion and pivotal moments often occurred in poorly lit areas of the stage. There was too much fog and the machine producing it made a lot of distracting noise. The transitions from the Stahlbaums’ living room into a battle scene and onto the Land of Snow were simply not as magical as intended. Narrative was lost.
Columbia Classical Ballet’s Act II is traditional, though it starts oddly. Why? Well, there is no overture played before the ballet begins. Thus, it is strange to listen to the first part of the angelic scene played to the curtain. William Starrett’s Act II starts the same way but his production includes the opening overture. Musically, that seems proper. Musically, Starrett’s Act II is anything but proper. It starts to the correct, heavenly melody and altogether too much gold lamé but then progresses into the Waltz of the Flowers. The other variations are also mixed up and include Neapolitan Ice Cream Flavors and Striped Candy Canes using music that isn’t even from Tchiakovsky’s Nutcracker score. Anyone familiar with the music knows it’s all out of order.
Yet, it works. There’s a flow from section to section and a nice mix of humor for sheer entertainment. I didn’t even mind the appearance of a white horse dressed as a unicorn. Admittedly, its a gimmick but it is only a magical inspired entrance. It doesn’t distract from the dancing or the progression of the ballet.
By the end of both ballets, Clara is back in her living room and the audiences are altogether too eager to give standing ovations, as if a requirement. Both ballets had their strong points and weaknesses. Both were worth seeing.
Both companies have extremely enticing opportunities for audience members to witness something special in the coming new year. On Saturday, January 20th, Columbia Classical Ballet will present their annual LifeChance, an International Ballet Gala of Stars (always one of the best ballet performances in Columbia). On Saturday, January 27th, Columbia City Ballet is partnering with the full South Carolina Philharmonic under Morihiko Nakahara’s baton for Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Looking ahead, I hope this article assists future audience members make informed decisions about their Nutcracker options. Best bet: see both and compare! Maybe you’ll agree with my impressions. Maybe next year’s productions will be entirely different. There’s still time to catch the last weekend of Columbia City Ballet’s Nutcracker. It can be seen at the Koger Center:
3:00 PM Saturday, December 16, 2017
7:30 PM Saturday, December 16, 2017
3:00 PM Sunday, December 17, 2017
Postscript: Most informed audience members know something else. Using LED devices is strictly prohibited. The family sitting in front of me during Columbia Classical Ballet’s Nutcracker used a cell phone to record the entire Bon-Bon variation. The gentleman sitting beside my husband at Columbia City Ballet’s Nutcracker checked his email during the Sugar Plum pas de deux. Please, go to the shows but don’t do this!
Susan Lenz is a full time, professional studio artist in Columbia, South Carolina. Her studio is located at Mouse House, Inc. at 2123 Park Street where she has both a studio for 3D sculptural and installation work and a separate fiber art studio. Susan's work has been juried into numerous national and international exhibits, featured in solo shows all over the United States, and shown on television and in print. She has been awarded six full scholarship art residencies and several "Best of Show" ribbons. She blogs at
Township Auditorium teemed with excitement as Richland One School District's third graders squirmed in their seats. I spoke with Cliff Butler, a science and math teacher at Sandel Elementary. No significant preparation had been given to the more than ninety students who came from his school. Daily class schedules are already too tight. The kids were simply excited for the curtain to rise. Then, Nancy Pope, the district's Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, took center stage. She spoke of audience etiquette. She really didn't need to. The coming two hours proved just how well behaved our local elementary school students really are, even without much of an introduction to ballet, the story line, or other instruction. Shortly thereafter, Neil Casey, Columbia Festival Orchestra conductor, raised his baton and The Nutcracker's overture brought a hush over the crowd.
Ann Brodie's Carolina Ballet presented the full length production. Nothing was abbreviated. Co-artistic director John Whitehead thinks it important that kids be exposed to "the real thing." There were appropriate moments of awe, giggles when Fritz (the youngest Silberhaus child) received a spanking, and gasps of dread when the fearsome Rat King entered the battle scene. Most impressive was the innate knowledge for applause in all the right places. Although Tchaikovsky's score punctuates these moments, the elementary school audience was totally captivated. They were paying close attention to every move. Looking around me, I saw students sitting on the edges of their seats.
During the intermission, I wondered about the hearing impaired students from Brennen Elementary. What impression was made without the melodies? Through an interpreter, I asked. Hands flew in response. I recognized the universal gesture for a powerful lift and a twirling index finger for an amazing pirouette. The consensus: They liked Katherine Brady and Caleb Roberts as Snow Queen and Cavalier. The first act was magical.
Magical! I couldn't agree more. Now, were there problems? A few imperfect lines? Too much smoke affect at the start of the battle scene? A bobble here and there? Of course! But, this is a civic ballet company. Few on stage will ever dance professionally. The cast is almost entirely students. Some aren't even old enough for kindergarten.
What I saw was a very well rehearsed cast and expert staging. I also saw a strong sense of community, especially in the character roles. Jimmy Moon, a NYC actor, returned to Columbia as Herr Drosselmeyer. USC Dance Company Artistic Director Susan Anderson was wonderful as the widow. Parents of current dancer and parents of dancers who are now off in college pulled on evening gowns and tuxedos for the party scene. More adults were back stage carefully assisting with proper entrances and exits.
The second act doesn't have the glitz of a party scene and the action of a battle. It is mostly a sequence of ballet variations ending with the full Sugar Plum pas de deux danced by the guest artists SeHyun Jin and Eric Beckham. These are moments for the dancers to shine, to set a mood, but not necessarily to carry the plot. And yet, the third grade audience remained mesmerized. A dropped pin could have been heard when Hollis Baroody entered as Arabian Coffee. I was most impressed by the Vienesse Marzipan trio. Lily-Cate Buchanan and Adaline Fletcher were expertly partnered by an outstanding young Wesley Miller. Wesley's high caliber of dancing reminded me of Eric Beckham in the same role several years ago. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see this young man in Eric's Sugar Plum Cavalier role in a few years.
Eric Beckham is one of Carolina Ballet's many success stories. He danced his way up the ranks from role to role in The Nutcracker before going off to the School of American Ballet in NYC. For the past two years, he been an apprentice with The National Ballet of Canada. He's now in the corps de ballet at Miami City Ballet. His partner, SeHyun Jin's journey brought her here to Columbia where she is a principal dancer under Radenko Pavolvich at Columbia Classical Ballet.
Over the years I've seen many young dancers grow up in Carolina Ballet's Nutcracker. As a city, we should all be very proud of our civic company and Richland One School district's commitment to bringing a third grade audience. This production is more than an annual exposure to elementary school students. It is proof that Columbia has the potential to grow an outstanding audience for dance. We've had this potential for years. While leaving the auditorium, I asked several students if they'd like to see ballet again. Eyes lit up. Of course they would.
Keeping this flame for dance alive is a problem. How do we, as a community, foster this positive exposure into a knowledgeable, engaged, and passionate future audience? I don't know. I hope my articles for the Jasper Project encourage this conversation. In the mean time, I have one suggestion. The chaperones and teachers accompanying these truly enthralled elementary school kids ought to stay off their cell phones and iPad during the performance. I counted no fewer than six LED lights throughout the second act. Shame on these adults ... because the kids get it.
See if you agree! Carolina Ballet's Nutcracker will be performed this coming weekend at the Township Auditorium:
Friday, November 24 at 7:30
Saturday, November 25 at 7:30
Sunday, November 26 at 3:00 PM
For tickets and reservations, call (803) 576-2350 or visit www.TicketMaster.com
By: Susan Lenz
On Monday night, Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan kicked off the Nickelodeon's new special programming series Dance Scene celebrating the best in contemporary dance-based cinema. Four more films are slated over the coming month of Monday evenings. Programming coordinator Amada Torruella described the series as "riveting tales of spirit and commitment, capturing the passions and partnerships that subtend the dance world." Each film is partnered with a local organization to highlight area dancers, artists and community leaders and their relationships to international dance movements.
Before the theater darkened for Restless Creature, Columbia City Ballet's artistic director William Starrett introduced principal dancer Regina Willoughby. Regina discussed her journey into ballet, her support system, and future plans after retirement. For Willoughby, dance is the fabric of her life, and her upcoming retirement will be a time for celebration. Using all of the available space, Regina then performed the first half of a new work she choreographed on herself to a piece by Dustin O’Halloran. When asked about the musical selection, Regina commented on the soft, new beginnings of the piece that builds in excitement only to end, abruptly but peacefully, much like she envisions this, her final year as a professional ballerina.
Between the film and Regina’s presentation, I learned something new and was truly entertained. I highly recommend this enlivened and well-curated series. Hope to see you on subsequent Monday nights!
For tickets and additional information on the Dance Scene series, please visit http://nickelodeon.org/. Below is a list of the upcoming films:
Alive and Kicking, a dynamic exploration of the history of swing dancing, will be screened on Monday, October 30th and is partnered with a performance by Palmetto Swing Dance Association.
KIKI, a film set in the New York LGTBQ community's dance and ballroom scene, will be screened on Monday, November 6th and is partnered with South Carolina Black Pride, featuring MeMe Revlon and Babe Ebony.
Rize, a documentary on clowning and krumping in Los Angeles, will be screened on Monday, November 13th and is partnered with Fuse Arts Alliance.
Mr. Gaga, a documentary on Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company, will be screened on Monday, November 20th and is partnered with both Columbia City Ballet and modern dancer Carolina Lewis Jones.
Everyone has a role to play as we, as a community, keep making our way through one of the strangest and trying times in our city's history. Our role, on Friday night, will be to go ahead with the 2nd Act Film Festival and offer everyone the opportunity to sit down for a while and enjoy some art. We thought long and hard about whether to postpone the festival and this is where we landed.
We have 10 exciting 6 minute films created for you by 10 different South Carolina filmmakers. While each film is decidedly different, each filmmaker and her or his team sought to solve a common problem. Each filmmaker was given the first and third acts of a screenplay and charged with writing the 2nd act and making the film with all three acts. This year's theme is consciousness. From a time-traveling Richard Nixon to a wife whose man has cheated for the last time and suffers the altered penis to prove it, each film brings its own unique perspective to the challenge.
We have a couple of announcements though.
First, we'd like to invite everyone who attends and is up for it (and even if you can't attend you can still do this) to bring a donation of children's arts supplies that we will be sure gets to local children who have lost their supplies in the flood. Crayons, coloring books, colored pencils, sketch pads, markers, craft kits -- everything is welcome. If you'd like to go ahead and drop your donation off at Tapp's Arts Center (1644 Main Street) Caitlin Bright has set up a collection bin for us there and is open from 10 am until 6 pm daily.
Next, thanks to the generosity of visual artist Michael Krajewski and the gorgeous framing by Susan Lenz and Steve Dingman at the Mouse House, we will be (silent) auctioning Krajewski's second painting in a series of art he has created specifically for Jasper and the 2nd Act Film Festival. This beautifully framed painting (above) is valued at more than $1000 - we hope to make a generous donation to our local flood victims.
So, please come out and see us on Friday night at 7 pm at Tapp's. A special VIP champagne reception to meet and greet the filmmakers -- with snacks generously provided by Bourbon -- will take place at 6 pm. Tickets are available via http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2304300 -- we sold out of even our SRO tickets at the last festival, so please keep that in mind when planning your Friday night rest for the weary.
Over the course of four evenings in the summer of 2014, more than two dozen literary, visual, and musical artists gathered in the Jasper Magazine office with experts on the February 17th, 1865 burning of Columbia. The artists immersed themselves in the events that took place the night of the burning as well as the days and nights leading to and immediately following it. Six months later, their inspirations have come to fruition in a multi-disciplinary series of arts events – Art from the Ashes.
Art from the Ashes: Columbia Residents Respond to the Burning of Their City is a collection of poetry, prose, and even a screenplay by some of Columbia, SC’s most dynamic writers, including Ed Madden, Tara Powell, Ray McManus, Susan Levi Wallach, Tom Poland, Al Black, Jonathan Butler, Rachel Haynie, Debra Daniel, Will Garland, Betsy Breen, and Don McCallister. Edited by Jasper Magazine’s Cynthia Boiter, it is a publication of Muddy Ford Press and the first in the press’s new series, Muddy Ford Monographs.
In concert with the book launch, Art from the Ashes: The Gallery will open on the same evening, also at Tapp’s, and will run throughout the month of February. Participating visual artists include Susan Lenz, Kirkland Smith, Christian Thee, Michael Krajewski, Jarid Lyfe Brown, Whitney LeJeune, Mary Bentz Gilkerson, Cedric Umoja, Michaela Pilar Brown, Alejandro Garcia-Lemos, and Kara Gunter.
Join us as we celebrate the book launch and gallery opening from 5 – 7 pm. Visual artists will be on hand to answer questions about their work and literary artists will be signing and reading from their writings. Musician Jack McGregor, who created a three movement musical composition in response to the burning, will premiere his work as well.
Additional events include a Visual Artists Panel Presentation on Thursday, February 5th at 7 pm and a Reading and Book Signing on February 17th at 7 pm, followed by a concert by Columbia-based musical artist, the Dubber.
All events take place at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street and are free and open to the public
We’re starting our fourth year of bringing Columbia in-depth local arts coverage in theatre, dance, visual arts, literary arts, music, and film, (and we’ll be adding design soon), and we’re celebrating with a multi-disciplinary release celebration to kick the year and the arts season off right.
Please join us on Thursday, September 18th at 5 pm at Vista Studios – Gallery 80808 at 808 Lady Street as we welcome the new issue of Jasper Magazine.
Classical oil paintings by internationally renowned realist Tish Lowe will set the stage in the main gallery. Palmetto Opera’s artistic director, Walter Cuttino, will lead a one-night-only performance of highlights from Puccini’s La Bohème, hits from familiar musicals such as Phantom of the Opera and Carousel. .
The atrium will showcase a collaborative installation by fiber and installation artist Susan Lenz, who was Jasper’s 2012 Visual Artist of the Year and artist Michael Krajewski, who was Jasper’s first centerfold. Their work, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts, will be a manifestation of the mental images and ideas that naturally flow through the human mind while engaged in the viewing of La Bohème. Lenz’s tangle of unraveled, old threads will cascade in and out of suspended baskets mimicking the colors, complex plots, and emotions of a performance. Krajewski’s bohemian, pencil graffiti will literally express the connections between the visual, musical, dramatic, literary, and poetic world of a bygone, operatic world still dancing in the twenty-first century mind. The arts exhibition will remain on view through Tuesday, September 30th.
Jasper adores the film Wade Sellers, our beloved film editor, made for Susan Lenz -- you can watch it here - and you should because it's really lovely.
Following the presentations by Palmetto Opera, multi-talented musical artist Tim McClendon, who is also featured in this issue of Jasper Magazine for his design work, will perform an impromptu set of music. One Columbia will also be on hand to kick off their Cultural Passport program as will the Rosewood Arts Festival and the Jam Room Music Festival to share information about their upcoming events. The event is free and open to the public.
volumes 2: women bound by art, an altered book exhibition, will be on exhibit at the Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery, University of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate), at 800 University Way, Spartanburg, SC 29203 from January 17 - February 21, 2014. This show will be exhibited in conjunction with selected works from volumes: women by by art which was created in 2012 and was exhibited at the main branch of the Lexington County Public Library, Lexington, SC and at Portfolio Art Gallery in Columbia, SC. The women featured in the exhibition will participate in a panel discussion at 4:30 p.m. on January 30, 2014, which will focus on their respective creative processes. A reception will follow the discussion. All Gallery events are FREE and open to the public.
The art exhibition includes a collection of 17 altered books created by 18 women artists: Eileen Blyth (Columbia, SC), Cynthia Colbert (Columbia, SC), Jessica Cruser (Columbia, SC), Heidi Darr-Hope (Columbia, SC), Janette Grassi (Charlotte, NC), Tonya Gregg (Columbia, SC), Mary How and her young daughter Macy How (Columbia, SC), Doni Jordan (Columbia, SC), Susan Lenz (Columbia, SC), Susan Livingston (Orangeburg, SC), Gina Moore ((Columbia, SC), Yukiko Oka ((Columbia, SC), Kay Reardon (Columbia, SC), Liisa Salosaari Jasinski (Newberry, SC), Virginia Scotchie (Columbia, SC), Kathryn Van Aernum (Columbia, SC) and Katie Walker (Greenville, SC). The group includes art therapists, art professors, potters, fiber artists, graphic designers, illustrators, mixed media artists, painters and photographers.
Conceived and curated by artists Susan Livingston and Doni Jordan, each artist was given a volume of an encyclopedia and complete creative control. volumes 2:women bound by art is the result of that creativity. The Standard International Encyclopedia,1954, was donated to the artists by Hal McIntosh, thanks to help of artist Cynthia Colbert. Encyclopedias, the forerunners of todays electronic search engines, where first written by an ancient Roman scholar and focused on grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, musical theory, medicine, and architecture.
ABOUT THE CURTIS R. HARLEY ART GALLERY
The Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery is located at 800 University Way, University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, SC 29203 and is located on the first floor lobby of the Humanities and Performing Arts Center (HPAC). The gallery showcases nationally and internationally established artists and exhibitions that support the academic mission of USC Upstate. Most recently the University was the recipient of 5 original screenprints by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to enhance the current collection of 150 Polaroid photographs by Andy Warhol. Hours: 9am-5pm /Monday - Friday.
- Visual Arts
- Literary Arts
Artists, 18 and older, working in the greater Columbia arts community are eligible for the title based upon their artistic accomplishments during the period from September 2012 until September 2013.*
Nominations should be sent to editor@JasperColumbia.com with the subject heading “Artist of the Year” and should be accompanied by
1) a single paragraph explaining why the nominee should be considered -- this is the place where you wax poetic & sing the praises of your nominee in terms that will touch our hearts
2) a brief, but comprehensive list of work produced, performed , published, or presented during the September 15th, 2012 – September 14th, 2013 time period -- this is the place where you get serious. You know all that stuff you said in the paragraph above? We don't need to hear it again. What we need to hear are the specific enumerated accomplishments your nominee has made over the past 12 months and the dates of accomplishment. (Note: it broke our hearts last year when we weren't able to include highly deserving candidates whose nominators failed to list their nominees' many accomplishments. For our sake, please follow the instructions.)
3) a sentence stating that you have consulted your candidate and she or he has agreed to participate in the competition.
Nominations must be received online by midnight September 14, 2013.
Results will be announced in the November issue of Jasper Magazine.
Upon closing of the nomination call, a panel of judges will select the top three candidates in each field and, from these three finalists, the public will be invited to vote online for each of their top choices at the Jasper website.
- There is no fee to enter.
- Artists may nominate themselves.
- Artists should be made aware of their nomination and agree to participate in the competition.
The category Dance includes: performance, choreography, or direction of any form of dance including, but not limited to ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, ballroom, Latin, or folk.
The category Theatre includes: directing or acting in one or more local performances.
The category Music includes: conducting, directing, writing, or performing any style of music in one or more local concerts or recordings; both individuals and groups are eligible.
The category Visual Arts includes: the completion and presentation of any form of non-performing or non-literary arts, such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, print-making, mixed-media, and (new this year) set design, etc.
The category Literary Arts includes: the completion, publication, and/or presentation of any form of prose, poetry, or non-fiction writing, as well as playwriting and the writing of executed screenplays.
*Jasper 2013 Artist of the Year Awards will not be awarded based on achievements accomplished prior to September 15th, 2012. The purpose of the awards is to recognize artistic achievements accomplished within a calendar year, not over a lifetime.
Congratulations to our outgoing
Jasper 2012 Artists of the Year
on a year well-served!
Regina Willoughby - Dance
Kwame Dawes - Literary Arts
Morihiko Nakahara - Music
Chad Henderson - Theatre
Susan Lenz - Visual Arts
- Previous winners of Jasper Artists of the Year are not eligible for nomination for a three year period following the year in which they won.
- Previous nominees who did not win are eligible to be nominated in subsequent years.
- Artists must have resided in Columbia, SC during the September 2012 - 2013 time period. Artists who are from Columbia, but no longer live here, are no longer eligible for Jasper Artists of the Year Awards.
- Works in progress will not be considered.
- Employees of Jasper Magazine and clients of Muddy Ford Press are not eligible for competition.
I feel a little guilty using What Jasper Said to post my answers to The Next Big Thing, the hot new meme going around our community in which writers tag one another and ask that they write about their newest projects. But given that my newest project was published by Muddy Ford Press and that MFP underwrites Jasper Magazine, there's a sweet symbiosis to it that I cannot deny. Here's how it works -- after having been tagged (my thanks to Cassie Premo Steele for tagging me), the newly tagged author is required to self-interview, answering 10 pre-determined questions. After having answered these questions, she tags another five writers to do the same.
What is the working title of your book?
The Limelight -- A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, volume 1
What is the genre of your book?
Where did the idea come from?
Columbia, SC is a city that is reeling with a multitude of artists from different genres, particularly the literary arts. We have an inordinate number of professional writers here, yet we don't really have a sense of ourselves as a writing community -- though we are. I'd love to play some part in helping us to form a more unified community of writers. I want Columbia to be known as a "writers' town." To that end, I invited 18 local writers to contribute first person narrative essays about another local artist -- writer, visual artist, musician, dancer, theatre artist, whatever -- who had influenced them in some way. I had the pleasure of editing the essays.
Clearly, one volume is not enough to represent the artists and authors we have here, so I decided to serialize the compendium with the plan of publishing it on an annual basis.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Columbia, SC essayists sing the praises of Columbia, SC artists.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I issued the call for essays in the summer of 2012 with an autumn deadline. We went to press in February 2013.
Who or what inspired you to write it?
The community of Columbia artists.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My book was published by Muddy Ford Press.
What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?
I don't really know of any other books with the same model.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Well, there are 36 "characters" if we include both the contributors and the subjects of their essays.
The essay I wrote was about the artist Blue Sky, so, naturally Clint Eastwood would play Blue. For me? Lisa Kudrow or Terri Garr.
Ed Madden would be played by Jon Cryer and James Dickey by Jon Voight.
Jeffrey Day? Woody Allen, of course. James Busby would be played by Channing Tatum (that's right, I said it.)
I'd like to cast Christopher Walken to play someone, but I'm not sure who ... a much older Chad Henderson, maybe? Just for kicks?
Patrick Wilson would play Kyle Petersen with Sheryl Crow playing Danielle Howle (though I like Danielle's voice far better).
Billy Murray would play the part of Stephen Chesley and the part of Susan Lenz would be played by Julia Louis Dreyfus.
Vicky Saye Henderson would play herself.
What else about your manuscript might pique the reader's interest?
Some of the first lines are spectacular. For example, poet Ray McManus opens his essay about Terrance Hayes with this, "When you're a boy growing up in rural South Carolina, and you want to be a poet, you should first learn to fight."
And ballet dancer Bonnie Boiter-Jolley's first line about her mentor Stacey Calvert is brutally honest when she says, "When I first met Stacey Calvert over a decade ago, she explained to me how being a dancer is a very selfish thing."
And there are 16 more.
That's the end of the interview and I have to admit that it was fun. In an effort to share the fun and keep this meme going I'm tagging Aida Rogers, Don McCallister, Debbie Daniel, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Susan Levi Wallach. And I'm inviting them all to post their answers to me so I can share them with our readers. I think there's something about Wednesdays and deadlines also as I was tagged on a Wednesday and told to blog on the next Wednesday. So, by next Wednesday, I hope to have even more Next Big Things to share.
Thanks for reading,
"As she sat stunned in her car on Charleston's rickety old John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, trapped precariously 150 feet above the swift-moving waters of the Cooper River, ..."
"When you're a boy growing up in rural South Carolina, and you want to be a poet, you should first learn to fight."
"It was a Tuesday night in the spring of 1988 and I decided to head down to Pug's in Five Points for the weekly jam session."
"This essay is not an act of revenge."
"Bastille Day 2001, personal date of independence."
"It's a particularly hot summer day, even for Columbia, when I parallel park my car on Washington Street and notice a tall, lanky gentleman as he moves stiffly to reposition an over-sized canvas by the curb."
"It began with a gift."
Ahh, first lines.
Every literary adventure you've ever been on began with one.
Please join the Jasper and Muddy Ford Press family today as we celebrate the first lines above and more than a dozen more when we launch our newest book,
The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists,
with a launch party from 5 – 8 pm at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street in Columbia.
The $15 admission to the event includes a copy of The Limelight ($18 after 2/24/13), music, food, and the opportunity to gather signatures from authors and artists in attendance at the launch. For couples wishing to share a book, admission is $25.
There will be a cash bar.
The Limelight, published by Muddy Ford Press, LLC, is the first volume in a serialized collection of 18 first-person, narrative essays written by professional Columbia authors and artists about professional Columbia authors and artists. It is the sixth book to be published by Muddy Ford Press since February 2012.
Edited by Jasper Magazine founder and editor Cynthia Boiter, The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, Volume 1 is a serialized collection of first person narrative essays written by Columbia, SC writers and artists about Columbia, SC writers and artists. As the Southeast’s newest arts destination, Columbia is bursting with visual, literary, and performing artists whose work has caught the attention of the greater arts world at large, and these essays tell the stories of how the influence of these artists has spread. New York Times best-selling author Janna McMahan, for example, writes about spending a day touring Beaufort, SC, the hometown of literary giant Pat Conroy, with the writer himself. Poet Ed Madden writes about the disconcerting words of advice he received from dying poet and professor James Dickey when Madden took over teaching the last academic course of Dickey’s career. Music writers Michael Miller and Kyle Petersen share insights on saxophone great Chris Potter and contemporary singer-songwriter Danielle Howle, respectively, and poet Cassie Premo Steele writes about the inspiration stemming from her friendship with nationally-known visual artist Philip Mullen.
These 18 essays include works by and about poets Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Marjory Wentworth, Ray McManus, Cassie Premo Steele, Kristine Hartvigsen, Colena Corbett, and Ed Madden; visual artists Philip Mullen, Gilmer Petroff, Blue Sky, James Busby, Stephen Chesley, and Susan Lenz; musicians Chris Potter and Danielle Howle; dancers Stacey Calvert and Bonnie Boiter-Jolley; actors and directors Robert Richmond, Greg Leevy, Chad Henderson, Vicky Saye Henderson, Jim and Kay Thigpen, and Alex Smith; and writers and editors James Dickey, Pat Conroy, Janna McMahan, Aida Rogers, Michael Miller, Jeffrey Day, Kyle Petersen, Robbie Robertson, Don McCallister, Robert Lamb, August Krickel, and Cynthia Boiter.
For more information or to order online please go to
Jasper Magazine is pleased to announce the finalists for Jasper 2012 Artist of the Year in the categories of Dance, Literary Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts.
Dance: Brooklyn Mack, Regina Willoughby, and Marcy Jo Yonkey-Clayton
Literary Arts: Kwame Dawes, Julia Elliott, and Dianne Johnson
Music: Aaron Graves, Morihiko Nakahara, and Josh Roberts
Theatre: Chad Henderson, Vicky Saye Henderson, and Shelby Sessler
Visual Arts: Thomas Crouch, Lyon Hill, and Susan Lenz
The above 15 artists were among a number of artists nominated by their peers and fans. Based on the information submitted with the nominations, a panel of judges selected the top three artists in each category to compete for the title Jasper 2012 Artist of the Year.
Now the fun begins! You’re invited to vote for your choice for Jasper 2012 Artist of the Year in each of the five categories by visiting the Jasper website. There, you’ll find summaries of each artist’s accomplishments for the period of September 15, 2011 – September 15, 2012.
The winners of Jasper 2012 Artist of the Year in Dance, Literary Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts will be announced at 7 pm November 15, 2012 at the release of Jasper Magazine V. 002, N. 002 at City Art during Vista Lights. All 15 artists will be featured in the same issue of Jasper Magazine.
For more on the finalists, please continue reading.
Jasper 2012 Artist of the Year Finalists
Although Brooklyn Mack’s full time position in the Washington Ballet doesn’t allow him as much time in the SC Midlands as he once had, the dancer still considers Elgin his home and, despite a career that finds him dancing across the continents, the Columbia area is where you’ll find him during almost any time off. Nominated by Dance Magazine as one of the 25 young dancers to watch in 2012, Mack was the first African American male to win the Gold Medal at the 2012 Varna International Ballet Competition. He won the gold medal at the 2nd Annual Boston International Ballet Competition and the Grand Prix at the 3rd International Istanbul Ballet Competition, both in June 2012. An interview on National Public Radio, an invitation to dance at the Kremlin Palace, and guest solo artist invitations and performances in Indiana and at Jackson, not to mention performances with Columbia Classical Ballet and Washington Ballet, round out a busy year for Mack.
Marcy Jo Yonkey-Clayton
Recipient of the 2012 South Carolina Arts Commission Fellowship Award for Dance Choreography, Yonkey-Clayton created the dance, The More We Get Together (performed in Columbia, SC and Albany, GA), as well as Get On It, performed at the Columbia College Fall 2011 Faculty Concert. She danced in the following performances: Cow Beans & Cool Water, Angel Train, The More We Get Together, and the Columbia College Dance Lab’s Third Annual Campus Walking Tour of Dance. An assistant professor at Columbia College, Yonkey-Clayton teaches emerging dance artists, choreographs and performs with the Power Company, and the CCdanceLab. This year she taught at the American College Dance Festival in Albany, GA, the SC Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance in Myrtle Beach, and the Greenville Fine Arts Center, as well as for Richland One Dance and Columbia College Summer Camp. She completed a Choreography Residence at Ridge View High School, serves as editor awards committee member for the South Carolina Dance Association.
Ballerina with Columbia City Ballet, Regina Willoughby danced the following starring roles with the company between September 2011 and 2012 – Lucy in Dracula, Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, (a role she says she has dreamed of dancing for 20 years!), and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (a role she says she felt she needed to conquer before she retires). She also appeared with Ballet Spartanburg’s Dance Synergy III and earned the American Ballet Theater Teacher Training Curriculum certification in NYC.
Earlier this year, Kwame Dawes joined the ranks of Ansel Adams, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Derek Walcott, and Eudora Welty, as winner of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Dawes was one of 181 scholars, artists, and scientists selected from nearly 3000 applicants. In March he received the Poets & Writers magazine Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award, which recognizes writers who have given generously to other writers. Even though Dawes moved to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln last year to become the editor of the renowned literary magazine Prairie Schooner, the Jamaican poet says he still thinks of himself as a South Carolinian, and much of his work has been about getting South Carolina writers in print. Within the past year, Dawes published Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poetry from the Carolinas, an essential collection of contemporary African-American writers from South and North Carolina published by Hub City Press of Spartanburg and launched at the Columbia Museum of Art last fall. He also published Jubilation: An Anthology of Poetry Celebrating Fifty Years of Jamaican Independence (Peepal Tree, 2012) and his groundbreaking poetry and journalism project, Voices of Haiti, which won the National Press club’s 2011 Joan Friedenberg Award for Online Journalism, is now available as an I-book from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Recording. Two books forthcoming this fall also suggest his continuing commitment to South Carolina voices: Seeking: South Carolina Poets Responding to the Art of Jonathan Green (USC Press, fall 2012), and Seven Strong: South Carolina Poetry Prize Winners (also USC Press, fall 2012), selections from the state poetry prize series founded in by Dawes in 2005.
“Totally original” is what the awards committee for the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award said of Cayce writer Julia Elliott, or more precisely, “incredibly imaginative, sharply observed, and totally original.” Elliott was one of six women writers selected this fall for the $30,000 award, which is given annually to writers who demonstrate excellence and promise early in their careers. Two short stories were published this spring in Conjunctions and in Tin House, journals known for experimental literary fiction, and her story “Regeneration at Mukti,” originally published in Conjunctions, received a Pushcart Prize and will appear in the 2013 anthology later this year. An assistant professor English and Women’s and Gender Studies at USC, Elliott is currently finishing The New and Improved Romie Futch, a novel about a SC taxidermist, as well as working on a second novel about primatologists and baboons, which she studied in-depth at the NC Zoo in Asheboro in 2011 as recipient of a creative arts grant from USC.
Last year, Columbia city officials chose Dianne Johnson’s All Around Town: The Photographs of Richard Samuel Roberts, originally published in 1998, for the city reading initiative Together We Can. As the program’s featured writer, Johnson gave 45 presentations in 6 weeks, working in partnership with the Columbia Museum of Art and Richland County Public Library, and interacting with over 2000 third graders from Richland District One, working. Wearing her signature red “FREADOM” shirt, she talks with children about the kinds of freedom they can have if they master reading. Every student received a copy of the book, which brings Columbia history to life with Roberts’ photographs of Columbia’s African-American communities from the 1920s, accompanied by Johnson’s poetry. A professor of English at USC, Johnson was also featured at the Upcountry Literary Festival at USC-Union and the South Carolina Book Festival, and she served as a judge for the SC State Library Letters about Literature Program and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators New Writers Contest. One of her nominators lauded “her contribution to the lives and futures of these 2000 children” and “her tireless enthusiasm and respect for all children.”
Aaron Graves (of Those Lavender Whales)
As the leader/mastermind behind the oddball indie-pop outfit Those Lavender Whales and one of the primary forces behind the community-centered Fork & Spoon Records, Graves is at the very heart of the music scene here in Columbia. While often more associated with his promotional efforts at Fork & Spoon, this past year has been more focused on his long-gestating full-lengthTomahawk of Praise, a powerfully honest and arresting album that pairs quirky arrangements with lyrics that tackle the nature of family, faith, and growing up in what is (arguably) the most fully-realized local recording of 2012. A sold-out release show, numerous regional shows, a tour up the East Coast, and notable performances at the Free Times Music Crawl and the Arts & Draughts series rounded out a banner year for Graves and his band, which also includes his wife Jessica Bornick, and Fork & Spoon co-founder Chris Gardner.
Josh Roberts (of Josh Roberts & the Hinges)
Frequently touted as one of the city's best live acts, Josh Roberts has long been known as one of our scene's true guitar gods, a masterful rock and roller who is capable of both extended technical flights of improvisation fancy and writing monster guitar riff after monster guitar riff. Highlight performances over the past year have included opening gigs for the likes of Band of Horses and Drive-by Truckers as well as a year-capping performance before headliner George Clinton on New Year’s 2011 on Main Street. And just a few weeks ago, Roberts ended a five year recording drought with the Hinges with the release of Mighty Old Distance and Murky Old Time, a concise distillation of the power of his songwriting and guitar chops that captures the musician at the top of his game.
In 2011- 2012, Morihiko Nakahara completed his 4th year as Music Director and Conductor of the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra. He also serves as Resident Conductor for the Spokane Symphony in Spokane, Washington. Acclaimed as a versatile artist and a passionate believer in music education for all ages, Nakahara leads a series of successful educational and community access concerts every season. In addition, he is a popular clinician, guest conductor, and speaker at various educational institutions. As a personable ambassador for classical music, Nakahara makes frequent appearances on local media outlets as well as at local businesses and service clubs.
Lyon Hill creates two-dimensional visual art, and as filmmaker, puppeteer, and Artistic Director of the Columbia Marionette Theatre, designs three-dimensional creations as well. In 2012 he was an awarded participant in the What's Love: input/output exhibition at 701 Whaley. In the past year he has performed numerous works featuring his creations: Supine at the Columbia Indie Grits Festival/Spork in Hand Puppet Slam and at the Center for Puppetry Arts National Slam in Atlanta, GA, an excerpt from Hansel and Gretel as part of Pocket Productions' "Playing After Dark" series, and assorted Marionette Theatre productions (including The Brementown Musicians, The Brave Tin Soldier, Pinocchio, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.) His short film Junk Palace was awarded a Citation of Excellence in the Recorded Media category by the American Chapter of the UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionette.)
Creator of the Art Bar Agora, an annual artists’ showcase by and for artists, Crouch produced the third annual showcase in late spring 2012. His art exhibits this year include “Wolfs vs. Baboons” solo show at the Tapps Arts Center, Artista Vista, Mingle and Jingle on Main Street and at the SC Philharmonic Orchestra benefit, “Jail Break” at the Charleston Old City Jail, “No Man’s Land” solo show at Gallery 701 Hallway, an open Farmers’ Market booth, the “Bullets for Band-Aids” veteran’s benefit, “Logical Operator—she loves Me, She Loves Me Not” for the What’s Love solo hallway show. He participated in the Trustus Theatre arts/theatre collaboration for the musical Passing Strange, exhibited at Middleton Gardens in Charleston for the Charleston International Film Festival Live Auction, a Garden Deli show in Columbia, as well as at the Tapp’s Ronald McDonald House Fundraiser, and The Pretty Girls Feminist Art show. Crouch recently gave a presentation on his creative process for High Noon City Art, participated in the S & S Art Supply panel fundraiser, and was commissioned to produce the cover for the short story collection, Buttered Biscuits.
Textile and Installation Artist Susan Lenz completed three artist residencies and scholarship programs this year including Studios Midwest, in Galesburg, IL, The Studios at Key West in Key West, FL, and the Hot Springs National Park Artist Residency at Hot Springs, AR. She was the recipient of the SC Palmetto Hands Juried Fine Craft Exhibition Best of Show award in North Charleston, SC and the Niche Award 2011 for fibers in the decorative category winner by Niche Magazine in Baltimore, MD. Her exhibitions include the following: the 2012 Quilt Festival at the la Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in La Conner, WA; a solo show, Fiber Architecture: Buildings in Stitches at Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts in VA; an invitational show, Decision Portraits at Quilt, Inc.’s International Quilt Show in Houston; Lowell Art Quilt 2012 at the Brush Gallery in Lowell, MA; Material Voice at Ayers Loft Gallery in Lowell, MA; Small Stories at Urban Alchemist in Brooklyn, NY; a solo show, Sun and Sand at Frame of Mind, in Columbia; an invitational show, Narrative Threads at the Page-Walker Gallery in Cary, NC; I’m Not Crazy, Studio Art Quilt Associates traveling exhibition; La Grange National XXVII in LaGrange, GA; a solo show, Last Words, at the Imperial Center, Rocky Mount, NC; the 33rd Annual Contemporary Crafts at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, AZ; an invitational show, Meet the Designers at the Columbia Museum of Art; Crafts National at Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, KS, Art and the Human Form: Concept, Costume & Beyond, Blue Door Gallery, Yonkers, NY; Textiles in a Tube 2 at Riverworks Gallery in Greenville, SC; the SC Palmetto Hands Fine Craft Exhibition in North Charleston; the 2012 Exhibition at McKissick Museum; a solo show, Last Words at Vision Gallery in Chandler, AZ; an invitational show, The Winter Show at Green Hill Center in Greensboro, NC; Art of Fiber at Workhouse Art Center in Lorton, VA; Fine Crafts at Fredericksburg Creative Center for the Arts in VA; SAQA Layers of Memories, Studio Art Quilt; National Fiber Directions Exhibition 2011, Wichita, KS; Tapps Center for the Arts window installation, Two Hours at the Beach; an invitational show, Green: The Color and the Cause at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC; National Juried Quilt Exhibit at Delaplane Visual Arts Center in Frederick, MD; Unearth: A Celebration of Naturally Inspired Art at Saluda Shoals in Columbia; and the National Heritage Quilt Show at McMinn County Living Heritage Museum in Athens, TN.
One of Columbia's youngest professional directors, Chad Henderson has helmed six shows, all coincidentally musicals, in the past year at three of the area's major theatres: John and Jen at Workshop Theatre, Pinkalicious - The Musical (which was revived later in the season after selling out 100% of its performances) at Columbia Children's Theatre, and Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, Avenue Q, and Next to Normal, all at Trustus Theatre. Additionally, he represented the Midlands via a residency at The Studios of Key West in Florida, where he directed the 24-hour theatre festival "One Night Stand." As an actor, he was seen in The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Trustus, as well as in training scenarios for law enforcement and counseling professionals in SC, MT and NM.
Vicky Saye Henderson
Vicky Saye Henderson has been seen in five stage productions in the last year: Andrew Lippa's Wild Party (as Queenie, the tortured showgirl) at Workshop Theatre, and at Trustus Theatre Next to Normal (as Diana, the bipolar wife and mom) Spring Awakening (all adult females), The Great American Trailer Park Musical (as Betty) and Almost an Evening (multiple roles.) Additionally she acted in two staged readings of plays at Trustus: Southern Discomfort and Satan in High Heels. A SC Arts Commision-approved teaching artist, she has worked with numerous schools, colleges, churches, businesses and individuals, offering specialized courses in theatre arts, improvisation, and professional development. Her improv and sketch comedy training program for youth, ReWired, is in its 6th year at Workshop Theatre, and she is director for drama ministries at St. Andrews Lutheran Church. She also appeared in two film projects, Lola's Prayer and Taken In, which were screened at three film festivals, including Columbia's Indie Grits Festival.
A senior Music major concentrating in voice at USC, Shelby Sessler has performed diverse roles at four of Columbia's major theatres in the past year: the naive Pickles in The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Trustus Theatre, the titular tyke in Pinkalicious - The Musical at Columbia Children's Theatre, Vivienne the snooty antagonist in Legally Blonde at Workshop Theatre, and all three female roles (a German femme fatale, a forlorn Scottish farm wife, and a proper British lady) in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps at Town Theatre. Additionally she teaches voice in Workshop Theatre's Broadway Bound Program. Behind the scenes, Sessler worked as Assistant Stage Manager for the SC Shakespeare Co.'s spring production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged.)
Pretty Girls: an Artist Collective was born out of a naturally occurring grass roots motif. The original intention would have been to host a feminist art show in someone’s yard or basement -- out of necessity. As Olivia Thompson was doing a spring 2011 internship under fiber and material studies artist Susan Lenz of Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 - Susan offered the gallery space for Olivia to organize her first art exhibition. The opportunity to utilize a renowned art gallery set the stage for success. Reba Edwards gathered select fellow USC art students to become part of the collective. Mary-Ellyse Fendig, also known as Merle, executed all the public relations work to bring community awareness of this happening. Molly Harrell become the Pretty Girls photographer and did a series of “Rosie the Riveter” portraits of the collective. It was the collective effort of these strong female voices that made this show possible. Young and pretty women in this society never have real value. As we are artists and not social scientists, we do not have solutions to our society's complex social problems. Pretty Girls merely wishes to illuminate this subject through visual interpretations. The act of creating is a solution in and of itself. As we have overcome enough of the socioeconomic obstacles that might have otherwise prevented us from presenting our perspectives. It is a liberating experience to host a feminist art show and have other people get involved and feel inspired. People are sympathetic to feminism but so many people support issues regarding animal rights and green movements but you can’t truly respect the planet if you don’t respect human rights.
The idealization of the female form has become detrimental to the growth of the human race. Some viewers may perceive our feminist work as too sexually explicit or too pessimistic, but it is always unillusioned and it goes with the turf; we create from experience. We hold a mirror up to confront what society has chosen to ignore - social outcasts. We are not trying to make the public feel more comfortable – it can be pretty ugly.
The second annual show will be held at the Tapp’s Art Center located at 1644 Main Street this Friday June 1, 2012 from 5-10 p.m. It will showcase over 50 local up-and-coming artists. The concept of this particular show is Consumerism from the original underlying Feminist perspective. The opening reception on Friday will include performance arts and entertainment - not to be missed! The art will be on display the entirety of June at the Tapp’s Art Center. All proceeds will go to benefit the Friends of the Tapp’s Arts Center, a new non-profit for art workshops with children.
But when a pageant has been turned on its head the way that Larry Hembree, past executive director of the Nickelodeon Theatre and incoming executive director of Trustus Theatre,* has turned this year's [Vista] Queen of the Night Pageant, you can safely assume that many of the tired old trappings that typically make beauty pageants so declasse have been tossed out with the trash. (Apologies to Chris Bickel, pageant contestant.)
Starting with the gender and sexual orientation of the contestants.
Hembree is taking us back to the glory days of the Vista Queen Pageant when hetero gentlemen the likes of Jakie Knotts and Sheriff Leon Lott donned their gay apparel and fought it out like proper the proper bitches they are for the crown and the title of Vista Queen. Recent pageants, though exceedingly entertaining, have featured, let's just say, gentlemen to whom lip gloss and eye liner felt a little more natural.
Contestants hiding their candy this year include Chris Bickel (featured as the centerfold of Jasper #002,) the mighty Tom Hall, our buddy Otis Taylor, news anchor Anderson Burns, actor Gerald Floyd, and Historic Columbia's director of Cultural Resources, John Sheerer.
Clay Owens is the stage manager, and Terrance Henderson (featured in Jasper #001) is the choreographer -- Alexia Bonet and CJ Grant will be serving as out hosts.
Judges are Ya Ya Queen Debbie McDaniel, who is also a generous sponsor, Sarah Luadzers from the Congaree Vista Guild, playwright, Robbie Robertson, and City Counselor Cameron Runyan.
The winner of the title of Vista Queen will be adorned with a beautiful sash, sponsored by your friends at Jasper Magazine and handcrafted by the hardest-working-artist-in-Columbia, Susan Lenz.
Tickets to the event are sold-out, as well they should be, but for those lucky enough to have scored a ticket, doors open at 6 and the show starts at 7.
For additional information, visit www.trustus.org or visit the event page “(Vista) Queen of the Night” on Facebook.
*(Full disclosure - this blogger sits on the Trustus Theatre board of directors.)